Heads-Up Play

Looking to reduce head injuries, district provides headbands for soccer teams

Northville Falcons varsity soccer player Joey Grega, who missed part of the 2016 season with a head injury, sports the protective headguard that will be wore by the Northville soccer teams this season. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

NORTHVILLE — The Northville soccer teams are taking a pro-active approach to concussion management this season.

With the help from the Northville School District’s Board of Education, all the Falcons teams will wear during games and team practice.

“We saw quite a few head injuries and concussions last year,” Northville High School Athletic Director John Karbowski said. “We did some research and looked at the use of concussion bands and their effectiveness and decided it would be mandatory for all our athletes from the modified through varsity to wear the concussion bands in practices and games.”

The Falcons are the second area soccer team to make use of the headgear as the Mayfield girls soccer program made it a team policy in the 2015 season.

Karbowski said that there is no initial financial output by the athletes for the initial headband.

Northville varsity head coach Steve Clapper, right, talks with the Falcons soccer team wearing the Full 90 concussion headbands during practice Tuesday at Northville High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

“It is money that was put into our athletic budget by our Board of Education for safety purposes and that is one of our number one concerns,” he said. “From an athletic stand point, it was something that made sense and well worth our while. Right now the plan is for the players to receive one of the bands at the beginning of the season and the hope is that it will last through their entire athletic career. Obviously, there are going to be instances where they don’t but the money has been put into the budget so that modified through varsity receive one.”

Throughout the 2016 season, the Northville boys soccer team had players who were sidelined with head injuries.

“Last year I lost three players with concussions through out the season and that is unacceptable both from a health standpoint and the effect on a team,” Falcons head coach Steve Clapper said. “I am very pleased that our school was willing to take this step and financially back our decision to create a safer environment for our athletes. I think, as the research shows, you can’t prevent injuries and you can’t prevent concussions but my thought is that it is going to make it safer for our players. That is our bottom line and what our goal is.”

Often changes, especially when made mandatory, are met with resistance. However, Karbowski said that it doesn’t seemed to be the case with the headbands.

“I have not heard of any resistance,” he said. “I think a lot of the parents and the kids realize that the head injuries in the professional sports have been in the news alot. I think, from a parents perspective, is that it can’t hurt. Again, it is not going to stop concussions but it will lessen the blow to the head. If that stops one or two concussions, from our standpoint as a district for safety purposes, it is well worth the while.”

Clapper agreed saying, “Our athletes are excepting it just fine. They realize it is something they need to do. They have a job to do and are here to do that and these little things are part of the game.”

Karbowski, who also coaches the boys varsity basketball team, said the concussion bands may be used in other sports but are not mandatory at this time.

“The only catch with it is that in soccer it is allowed without any waivers but other sports, like basketball, there is a waiver that is necessary because it is not part of the teams regular attire,” he said. “It is something we can look at in the future but soccer was our main focus because that is where we see the most head injuries.”

With schools looking for ways to make sports safer for their athletes it is possible that the headbands could be made part of a teams equipment.

“I think with the increased amount of head injuries that we are seeing and the more research that comes out and the talk in professional sports, I think we are heading in that direction,” Karbowski said. “This could very well be something that could eventually become mandatory for soccer players just like shin guards are.”